Pasquali’s Pix: Vols to be undefeated (in orange helmets); Dawgs to roll

Florida Athletics photo by Tim Casey / Florida first-year football coach Billy Napier celebrates during last weekend’s 38-6 rout of visiting South Carolina.

Sometimes it's just best to admit you don't know the answer.

Like this season's winner of the Southeastern Conference football coach of the year.

LSU's Brian Kelly has won the Western Division during his first go-around in Baton Rouge. Tennessee's Josh Heupel built on last year's 7-6 debut showing with a 9-1 team that has appeared atop the College Football Playoff rankings, and should Georgia's Kirby Smart be punished just because he won it last year?

Smart's Bulldogs lost 15 players to the NFL draft but are 10-0 and No. 1, so all three choices make perfect sense.

All I can suggest is the most overlooked coaching job right now, and that's at Florida with Billy Napier. The Gators were a 6-7 catastrophe last season during the implosion of the Dan Mullen era, but Napier has stabilized things at the very worst and has the promise of a strong finish.

In their last six quarters heading into this week's trip to Vanderbilt, the Gators have outscored Texas A&M and South Carolina 59-6.

"It's a lot of fun to come to work right now," Napier said Wednesday. "I'm really very pleased with our staff's approach, and I think as the players get more comfortable, they are really trying to play the game with the right intent. I think the chemistry, the team dynamic and the morale are all much better, and obviously winning helps that.

"Overall, there is just a lot of momentum, and I think the thing I'm probably most pleased with is that I'm seeing our systems getting better -- all the in-house protocol and the best practices. You're always thinking about your process in getting your team ready to play."

Florida is 6-4 with the potential of being 8-4 with nonconference wins over Utah and Florida State if the Gators win next week in Tallahassee, which won't be easy. That wouldn't match Kelly's first-year success, but it certainly would qualify as a solid start.

"We've seen the intangibles improve, like leadership and ownership at the player level," Napier said, "and we've seen an overall commitment at being your best for the team. All these things are part of what you try and create, and we need to continue to establish what we expect and confront anything that's out of place."


Alabama's 30-24 win at Ole Miss last Saturday was easily the best Crimson Tide triumph of the season for multiple reasons.

For starters, it was something finally worth celebrating after being eliminated from the conference chase.

"I think this team put a lot of pressure on themselves, and they wanted to do really, really well," Nick Saban said Wednesday. "They had goals and expectations for what they wanted to accomplish, as a lot of external people did as well. I think sometimes when you do that, maybe the pressure you put on yourself takes away the enjoyment to some degree, and I never want our team to be that way or to play that way. It can even get you to the point where you feel like you're playing not to lose rather than playing to win, and that's something that you never want.

"When you become outcome-oriented, those types of things start happening. I was really happy with the way our guys competed in this last game, and I want to build on that identity of competing that way and enjoying good plays and supporting each other and being a team."


Smart said his Bulldogs defenders are salivating a little more this week during film study due to Kentucky first-year offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello, who spent the past seven seasons coaching in the NFL. Scangarello was offensive coordinator of the Denver Broncos in 2019 and was quarterbacks coach of the San Francisco 49ers last year.

"They enjoy it more when you get to show clips of the 49ers and other NFL teams," Smart said. "It intrigues players a lot more when they're playing against NFL-style offenses. It motivates them a little more, because they know a lot of teams look at those tapes.

"Their coordinator came from the NFL, and it's more the style of what they'll play at the next level, so that part excites them."


Mississippi State coach Mike Leach was asked on Wednesday's SEC teleconference to comment on the officiating this year within the league, and Leach asked the reporter for $30,000.

"You go ahead and mail me the check," Leach said, "and I'll give you one heck of an answer."

Pasquali's Pix

Austin Peay at Alabama: Can Alabama really consider itself a college football power before ever taking on an Atlantic Sun program? Crimson Tide 59, Governors 0.

Florida at Vanderbilt: Since the Gators and Commodores started playing annually as SEC East foes, Florida is 15-0 in Nashville. Gators 34, Commodores 16.

UTC at Western Carolina: Last week: The Mocs are rolling into the FCS playoffs. This week: The Mocs are squeaking into the FCS playoffs. Mocs 27, Catamounts 23.

Georgia at Kentucky: The three longest runs by the Bulldogs this season are from tight end Brock Bowers (75 yards), receiver Ladd McConkey (70 yards) and quarterback Stetson Bennett IV (64 yards). Bulldogs 34, Wildcats 9.

Western Kentucky at Auburn: Methinks Cadillac Williams has been a more popular Tigers coach than Bryan Harsin this season. Tigers 27, Hilltoppers 24.

Georgia Tech at North Carolina: The Tar Heels are two wins away from completing an 11-1 regular season in which all 11 victims will wind up unranked. Tar Heels 35, Yellow Jackets 14.

Tennessee at South Carolina: Scoring with 36 seconds left to win by 42. Wearing orange helmets. What's next on this season's ride? Volunteers 40, Gamecocks 17.

Ole Miss at Arkansas: Good luck topping the excitement of last year's 52-51 thriller won by the Rebels. Rebels 34, Razorbacks 31.

Other picks:

Mississippi State 45, ETSU 26

Texas A&M 38, UMass 19

LSU 42, UAB 21

Missouri 49, New Mexico State 18

UCF 31, Navy 22

Michigan 34, Illinois 13

TCU 30, Baylor 25

Memphis 63, North Alabama 10

Florida State 37, Louisiana-Lafayette 14

Notre Dame 26, Boston College 7

Ohio State 48, Maryland 9

Clemson 35, Miami 16

Penn State 40, Rutgers 17

MTSU 27, Florida Atlantic 24

Oregon 32, Utah 31

USC 27, UCLA 20

Last week:

Winners — 18

Quacks — 7

Pasquali is 214-61 overall (77.8%) this season.

Contact David Paschall at